Dr Alex Langlands, a history lecturer at Swansea University, was seen on TV screens across the country on Tuesday 5 January in a prime-time BBC Two series which explores the history of baking.
Titled Victorian Bakers, the three-part series sees four modern bakers recreate the lives of their Victorian predecessors. Using authentic methods and recipes from three distinct eras of the 19th century, they will bake their way through a turbulent period of huge change for Britain, and will explore the social and economic change that took place.
An archaeologist and historian, Dr Langlands was recently appointed as a history lecturer within the Department of History and Classics in the College of Arts and Humanities. He specialises in the early medieval period, and has particular interests across British landscape history, from the Bronze Age through to the Second World War. Previously, he has presented and produced programmes for the BBC and Channel 4, including Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Wartime Farm, and Time Team. With over six years’ experience working as a field archaeologist on commercial and research excavations, Dr Langlands also consults on a range of heritage-related projects which feature in broadcast productions.
In the series of Victorian Bakers, the bakers will leave their modern tools behind and experience three very different worlds of Victorian baking – a rural bakery with close ties to local agriculture; the sweat and toil of an urban bakery in the midst of the industrial revolution; and the luxurious world of a high-class city baker-confectioner. Working in locations and using the engineering and technology of the day, the bakers will use only historic tools and ingredients.
Dr Langlands will join food historian Annie Gray to provide expert advice to the bakers whilst exploring the wider context of baking, such as the changes in technology which saw watermills and windmills replaced by vast steam-driven processing plants, and how a few Victorian bakers went from small family businesses to brands still familiar today.
Dr Langlands, said: “It has been amazing to be involved in the project. I have always said that there is only so much time you can spend reading about the past. Sometimes, you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get hands-on with our history. This is what this series does magnificently. Baking during Victoria’s reign went through a series of profound changes that broadly reflect the wider social and economic changes of the day.
“Taking expert bakers from the 21st Century and plunging them back in time to grapple with historic ovens, utensils and ingredients enabled us to uncover new understandings about how we lived during this formative period of our nation’s history. We explored the rural idyll of a countryside in crisis, and came through the dark days of the height of Victorian industrialisation to arrive at the late-Victorian and Edwardian high street bake houses we are still familiar with today.
“If you like baking, you like history and you are into watching some very skilled bakers challenged by everything the 19th century had to throw at them, then you’ll love Victorian Bakers!”
- Thursday 7 January 2016 13.10 GMT
- Thursday 7 January 2016 13.13 GMT